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Kind words about Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now from Dr. Layne Lebo, senior pastor at Mechanicsburg Brethren in Christ Church (locally known as McBic). Thanks Layne!

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m biased because I know Randy well, because he allowed me to read this book chapter by chapter as it was being written and because I love his many references to Central PA. Having said all of that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Beginning with Advent, Randy walks through the Christian year interweaving observations about nature, people, and his surroundings with Scripture and theology. The sub-title, Field Notes from Here and Now, points to the blend of current observations that point toward eternity. At one point Randy critiques systematic theology and suggests that a systemic theology would be more beneficial in many ways, that is what he does in the book, looking at nature, human experience and observation, the Christian year and Scripture as a systemic whole. Reading Participant reminded me of the importance of staying attuned to my surroundings and to God’s presence in my surroundings.

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“I try to spend as much time as possible in the winter forest. It is a great place to sharpen the senses. Contrast, movement, and sound call attention to themselves in a hurry. Things are more visible in the bare deciduous woods, including evidence that something has already been there before you arrived. Then there is the winter forest at night. The senses sharpen more clearly. Temperature heightens the sense of cold on your nose and cheeks. Looking at the sky feels like a spectator sport. Noise and movement gain your attention quickly. It is not difficult to find yourself on the alert. If you are nothing else in the winter woods at night, you are aware. Sometimes you hear something, see something, discover something that makes this all feel like an adventure. But the fact is, in the forest it is always likely that you were discovered first. Some things are sure to grab attention, like the cold of a winter night. Other things are subtle and require sharpened senses. I hope to be attentive.”

– from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now, p. 29

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Good Morning

“I step into a day where stars are moving across the sky. Where the moon is waxing. Where leaves are not visible in their winter state. Where the earth is crunchy underfoot this time of year. Where living creatures sleep through the winter. And will soon wake to sing. Where seasons change and days grow longer. I step into a day where God has already been extremely active. I can’t wait.”

– from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now, p.23

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Last week I joined five friends and paddled sixty six miles down the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. Among the pleasures of a trip like this is sleeping in the hammock under the stars. And then, waking to the dawn chorus before returning to the water the following morning. I am reminded of the following excerpt from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now.

Sunlight begins to scatter above the horizon, and the earth is neither light nor dark. Trees are just silhouettes against the sky. It is twilight. It is l’heure bleue, the “blue hour.” The morning twilight wakes the dawn chorus, and the dawn chorus wakes me. I can’t pick out all the voices but enjoy the combined sound. Soon afterward, the sun shows itself above the horizon. The sunrise has a soundtrack.

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It is a good time of year to be in the garden. Or at least to think about it. Here is a garden thought from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now.

I am in the garden, turning soil and mixing compost, planting onions and lettuce. I roll up my sleeves and reach into the earth. I breathe in the smell and look forward to picking vegetables from the back yard. I am thinking about Genesis, where on the sixth day, God rolled up His sleeves and reached into the earth and formed a human, an earthling.

Genesis says God gave the earthling a name and then breath. Genesis says God looked at this breathing, moving, artistic creation and, “behold, it was very good.” It is not recorded, but I suspect He also said, “Wow.”

I find it interesting that God planted a garden and placed the earthling there to cultivate and to keep the garden. Barbara Brown Taylor thinks that while working in the garden you remember “where you came from and why. You touch the stuff your bones are made of. You handle the decomposed bodies of trees, birds, and fallen stars. Your body recognizes its kin. If you have nerve enough, you also foresee your own decomposition. This is not bad knowledge to have. It is the kind that puts other kinds in perspective. Feel that cool dampness? Welcome back to earth, you earthling. Smell that dirt? Welcome home, you beloved dust creature of God.”

I, scooped from the earth, now flesh given breath, am in the garden, turning soil, mixing compost, planting onions and lettuce. I roll up my sleeves. I breathe in the smell. I reach into the earth. It gets under my nails. In my hair. It’s caked on my knees. I call it dirt. But I think about the sixth day when God first formed a human from this stuff and all I can do is say “wow.”

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Christmas is around the corner. Well, not really but retailers and publishers would like you to think so. So, here is my reminder that Christmas is ten weeks away. If you are looking for a gift that exercises the part of someone that reads, then consider a copy of Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now. Here is an excerpt from what might be considered the Christmas portion of the book;

What a strange God this is who announces his plan to deliver with the birth of a child who is laid in a manger. Ever held a baby? Cradled him in your arms? Felt the heartbeat? Breathed in the newborn smell? Rubbed your lips over the top of his head? Tasted his cheek with a kiss? Listened to his cry? Watched while he slept? Certainly there are more efficient, effective ways. Certainly there are ways that may leave a greater impact. Who comes up with these plans? Does God need a public relations person? Nevertheless, God thinks this is a good way to bring good news into the world. And at this time of year, we celebrate God’s great plan to deliver by sending a baby and laying the baby in a manger.

You may order from the publisher through www.fieldnotesfromhereandnow.com

If you prefer to order directly from me, I have a limited number of copies available. Just e-mail me with an address and tell me that a check for $15.00 is in the mail and I will make sure you receive a copy. If you prefer to order from Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Christian Book Distributors or your favorite online book distributor, please feel free to do that also. Whether you choose to purchase a copy or not, a happy ten weeks til Christmas to you!

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Here is an excerpt from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now. Thank you for checking it out and double thanks for passing it along to a friend. I hope it is more pleasure than it is torture…

http://www.fieldnotesfromhereandnow.com/is-anything-safe-around-here/

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